Captain Elliott Parrish is loyal to Queen and country and that devotion has brought him to hell on Earth. Along with members of the Light Brigade and thousands of other British and French soldiers, the cavalryman suffers through disease, violent weather, and military incompetence while serving in the Crimea. As the Russian army slaughters his friends and the idea of a quick war gives way to the reality of an endless campaign, Elliott struggles to maintain his natural cheerfulness. And then he meets the mysterious Ilyas Kovakin.
Ellis is Russian and British by birth, and neither side trusts him. He serves the British, but only because they hold his mother captive. Now he exists as something of a shadow, never quite a part of the army, yet intricately linked to it. His fellow soldiers suspect he is either a spy, or worse, a practitioner of some dark magic. The reality is so much crueler. Ilyas has been possessed by a demon of unimaginable power and only Ilyas’ stubborn will holds the beast at bay. But time is running out and the demon is growing stronger. In order to free himself of his brutal master, Ilyas turns to Elliott for help. As the war rages around them, Elliott and Ilyas grow closer, but ultimately find themselves in a race against time to save one another and their countrymen.
I was so happy that Jay came along and offered up the September Reading Challenges. The Devil Lancer was one of those books that I bought with every intention of starting right away and somehow it slipped away from me. But now, nearly a year later, the TBR Pile Challenge offered up the perfect opportunity to pick it up and I am thrilled that I did.
The Devil Lancer was a wonderful novel. Or rather it was two wonderful novels. Let me explain. The author has done an excellent job of integrating the hellish nightmare of the Crimean War with an epic fantasy. However, there were times when I would have preferred the author pick one path or the other. The historical context is exceptionally rendered and the reader is quickly drawn into the brutal hell of a senseless war. Most people have heard about the Charge of the Light Brigade, but fewer realize this was part of a wider conflict that was so mismanaged on the part of the British and French that it’s a wonder anyone survived. I could sense Elliot’s desperation as he becomes the hapless pawn of bungling commanders. His devotion to his country, to his men, and to the horses that carry him to battle is painfully elegant and utterly heartbreaking. This part of The Devil Lancer was so well done it was incredibly easy to become swept up in the action and the agony of Elliot’s fierce determination to survive.
Though he also serves as a solider, Ilyas is dealing with an even greater foe. The demon that resides inside him is slowly destroying his self-control and the end result is a creature that lusts for blood and destruction and little else. Desperate to escape the demon’s clutches, Ilyas hopes that Elliott’s love of cryptology will help him decode a complex language that may offer clues to his situation. This aspect of The Devil Lancer was also extremely well done and just as interesting as the history. Ilyas, like Elliott, is a prisoner of his situation. He is as intense and brooding as Elliott is cheerful. The two are a natural fit and you can’t help but enjoy the brief moments of happiness they carve out of the chaos. But as good as both the historical and fantastical elements of The Devil Lancer are, sometimes I felt as though the one detracted from the other. Just as I settled into the historical groove, I was pulled out of the moment and set on the fantasy path. This was a little frustrating, but only a little. It really was small issue and it didn’t excessively detract from my overall enjoyment, but did prevent me from giving it a perfect rating.
The Devil Lancer is an excellently written and wonderfully complex melding of history and fantasy. While there were times when each of these aspects would have been served by separate novels, the author has done a truly amazing job of using radically different genres to produce an original and captivating story with two delightful protagonists. Consider this one definitely recommended!
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of a loaded iPad Mini sponsored by Dreamspinner Press, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!